Ice twice as thick as normal on Allegheny River in Armstrong

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 10:53 a.m.

Freezing temperatures have created problematic ice that is twice as thick as a normal winter on the Allegheny River between South Buffalo and Parker in Armstrong County.

“It's not unusual for ice to get up to 4 inches thick, but anytime it gets over 6 inches, it becomes a significant problem,” said meteorologist Lee Hendricks of the National Weather Service in Moon. “With it being 8 inches thick in some spots, it won't break up or just melt away any time soon.”

Dan Jones, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh region Army Corps of Engineers, said the ice buildup will slow barge travel and more than double waiting times at the four locks in Armstrong County. The organization plans to use its locks to help ice flow down river once it begins to break up.

“There's really not much more that we can do except try to keep it moving,” Jones said.

The ice could keep barges from traveling down the river altogether, since most can handle only ice that is less than 5 inches thick, Hendricks said.

Despite temperatures rising as high as 39 degrees on Saturday, Hendricks said officials could not estimate when the ice could begin to thaw and break up.

Thick ice has already caused problems this year in Armstrong County. Mild temperatures two weeks ago loosened ice floes on the Allegheny River, causing flooding and driving ice and debris ashore, damaging property damage and forcing road closures along Rimer Road in Madison Township. The ice and water blocked roadways, leaving several families stranded.

Those types of problems can be expected again with the growing ice problem on the river.

Ideally, temperatures would gradually rise above freezing over the course of a week and remain there indefinitely to thaw the ice. But with relentless freezing temperatures expected to continue for days, the ice problem is expected to get worse before it gets better.

“We will be getting above freezing this weekend during the day, but temperatures will drop below freezing each night, so anything that melted will probably refreeze,” Hendricks said. “Right now, there's no real outlook for significant warming patterns.”

Hendricks advised anyone living along the river to be prepared for rising waters and ice buildup along the shorelines. Residents along the river should plan an escape route and constantly monitor the shoreline near their homes.

“Anyone along the river has to be prepared for the ice and water and be ready to get out quickly when it starts to rise,” Hendricks said. “When ice starts to build up or water rises, just leave, because it's not worth risking your safety or life to try to save belongings — that's what insurance is for.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or

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